New job numbers for December throw cold water on what had been a run of gains in Minnesota, as employers cut 5,200 jobs in the month and November’s gains were revised downward by 4,000.
“We’ll file this one under the category of all good things must come to an end,” said Steve Hine, the labor market economist for the state.
Still, the state unemployment rate fell a tenth of a point to 3.6 percent, according to figures released Thursday by the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development. The U.S. unemployment rate in December was 5.6 percent.
Minnesota job growth for the calendar year was the weakest since 2010, and in 2014, Minnesota lagged behind the nation. U.S. job growth for 2014 was 2.2 percent, nearly double the 1.2 percent rate of growth in Minnesota.
Asked how the unemployment rate can fall when the number of jobs in the state declined, Hine noted the unemployment rate and the total number of jobs are from different surveys, each with its own margin of error.
“They are counts of different things done by different surveys with different methodologies,” Hine said.
Average wages for all private sector workers fell 3 cents in December from $25.77 per hour to $25.74 per hour, and have fallen 20 cents since December 2013.
Most industries shed jobs in December, especially government, manufacturing, real estate and health care. Trade, transportation and utilities led all industries by adding 4,100 new jobs.
“We’ve had a string of months with very strong job growth both here and nationally,” Hine said. “It’s not at all unusual for a series of months that are as strong as that to be followed by a one-month correction.”
Stepping back to look at the bigger picture, Minnesota added 33,100 jobs in 2014, according to the numbers released Thursday. That compares to 59,300 in 2013, 43,500 in 2012 and 53,700 in 2011.
Construction, which showed some encouraging signs in 2014, now appears to be flat for job growth on the year.
Across the state, Mankato closed a strong year of job gains, adding more than 2,000 jobs for 3.7 percent growth.
The Twin Cities and St. Cloud both grew jobs at 1.8 percent. Rochester grew at 0.7 percent, and Duluth-Superior lost jobs at a rate of 0.7 percent.
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